Chester rewarded with federal portfolio

The Gippsland electorate will once again have representation in Federal Cabinet following the promotion of Nationals MP Darren Chester.

Mr Chester secured the Infrastructure and Transport portfolio as part of the ministerial reshuffle at the weekend.

“It’s an extraordinary opportunity for Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley because it means I’ll be in the room when the big decisions are made affecting our community,” Mr Chester said yesterday.

“It’s also a very challenging role and I understand I have a lot to learn in a short amount of time, but I look forward to getting on with the job as soon as possible.”

The Infrastructure and Transport portfolio had been held by outgoing Nationals leader Warren Truss, who announced his resignation last week.

When asked whether he had any specific plans for the portfolio, Mr Chester said he had been passionate about road safety throughout his career and believed a renewed national focus on road trauma was needed.

“I’m looking forward to working with my state counterparts as a national priority,” Mr Chester said.

“I’m concerned that 1200 people per year are still dying on our roads and the injury toll is enormous.

“It’s a major social and economic issue because it costs the nation $30 billion per year and there’s too much human suffering for those left behind.

“I think we can do better and I’m keen to develop huge strategies to reduce the road toll.”

Mr Chester acknowledged the challenge of serving his electorate while having major responsibilities in Canberra, saying modern technology would help him to strike the right balance.

“I recognise the additional responsibility I’ve been given but also the opportunity to promote the interests of Gippsland and all of regional Australia, which is why I got involved in politics in the first place,” he said.

“Obviously the time commitment is a challenge, but I’ll be doing everything I can to make sure I fulfil my role as a local member, which remains my highest priority.”

The previous two members for Gippsland Peter McGauran and Peter Nixon held cabinet positions.

“I’m very honoured to follow in their footsteps into the Cabinet,” Mr Chester said.

Mr Chester previously held the position of Assistant Defence Minister, which will now become the responsibility of Member for Riverina Michael McCormack. 

Mr Chester’s elevation to cabinet came after an unsuccessful bid last week for the position of Deputy Leader of the Nationals.

The position was contested by seven MPs, with Senator Fiona Nash elected.

Barnaby Joyce was elected leader of the party, unopposed, replacing Mr Truss.

Mr Chester will be sworn in on Thursday.